Kent wine maker: Biddenden Vineyards

Julian and Sally Barnes, Biddenden Vineyards (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Julian and Sally Barnes, Biddenden Vineyards (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

We speak to Julian and Sally Barnes of Biddenden Vineyards about the winery’s place as one of Kent’s top wine producers

How did you get started in the industry?

We’re Kent’s original vineyard, celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2019. We pride ourselves on being a family run vineyard, with the second and third generation of the family running the estate and with the oldest vines still in the ground. My parents brought the small apple farm in 1958 but as food was becoming more global, smaller farms and businesses in agriculture like ours were beginning to struggle as to where they would sell their food. In 1969, my mother was listening to BBC Woman’s Hour and heard about growing vines in Hampshire. They decided to have a go and planted a third of an acre and that’s where is all began. We went on to plant our Ortega vines in 1972 and now have vines that have been in the ground for 46 years.

Describe a typical day

I left school to drive a tractor on an apple farm and I’ve always sworn that that would be a part of my job, but now that both my sons have entered the business, that particular job is always in high demand! In recent years I have been more office-based in sales, marketing and the financial side of the business but I am still very hands-on with the winemaking and the growing of the grape. We are a small family business and my day will always start with a walk around the farm with the dog, the beauty of working at home.

Your proudest achievement?

I think that still being a main player after 50 years is something that is really commendable. We’ve seen the industry change in waves over the years and there are always peers jostling for place, but to still be here after half a century, weaving our own path, is something I’m incredibly proud of. I’m also not just proud of what we have achieved personally, our own awards and accolades, but of what the industry has become and our part in helping to shape it.

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Favourite wine and food pairing?

My parents originally were from Lancashire and so I would have to say roast beef and red wine.

Describe yourself in three words

Play to win!

What is special about your brand?

Since the eighties we have directed our efforts towards the variety of grape Ortega, which half the vineyard is planted with and with which Biddenden has become synonymous over the years. This variety of grape is what stands us apart, coupled with the fact that we are genuinely a small family business, run by the third generation. We don’t deal with supermarkets or wholesalers, we’re all about customer service, which we believe leads to sustainability.

English wines in the next five years?

I think the development of English wine ties in with people’s knowledge and desire for local products. I see the marketplace remaining strong for ourselves and with so many people coming into the industry, I think it’ll grow outside of the south-east area where we work at the moment.

biddendenvineyards.com